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How To Become A Helicopter Pilot?

by Antra Kamble
How To Become A Helicopter Pilot

Do you know how to become a Helicopter Pilot? Almost every person looks up when they hear a helicopter flying overhead! There is a certain charm about helicopters and the people who pilot them. In my article, I will discuss how to become a certified helicopter pilot in detail. Helicopter pilots are the ones who conduct search and rescue operations. Making a pilot your career means you will get paid to do something you enjoy. Are you fascinated to know more about how to become a helicopter pilot, continue reading to explore the other side of this field.

How To Become A Helicopter Pilot?

The basic steps for how to become a helicopter pilot are as follows.

  1. Set Up A Medical Exam
  2. Earn A Degree
  3. Attend A Ground Instruction School
  4. Secure Financial Aid
  5. Obtain license
  6. Complete The FAA Required Flight Time
  7. Pass In A Practical Test

Piloting a helicopter may sound a little challenging, but the process to get there isn’t that hard. You simply have to follow the steps that the FAA has laid out. Continue to know more about how to become a helicopter pilot in detail.

Steps For How To Become A Helicopter Pilot

Let us now learn how to become a full-time helicopter pilot in-depth. Here, you will get to understand the basic steps required for becoming a helicopter pilot.

  1. Set Up A Medical Exam

Pilot candidates will need to pass a medical exam before enrolling in a flight training school or program. This helps you to determine their mental and physical health. This exam must be performed by a Federal Aviation Administration-approved physician. Here, doctors will check for health problems. Below I have mentioned the list of health problems doctors may check.

  • Heart problems
  • Psychological Disorders
  • History of drug abuse
  • Lapses in consciousness
  • Hearing conditions or issues
  • Vision disability or issues (including color vision)
  1. Earn A Degree

For your information, most helicopter pilot employers require a bachelor’s degree. You can pursue your degree program in math, physics, or aeronautical engineering. Few universities offer aviation programs also which helps in the process of obtaining licenses. There are two options available to earn your college degree.

  • Two-year associate’s degree
  • Four-year bachelor of science degree

You can opt for any one of the degree programs. These programs will give you a huge head start for your career as a pilot.

  1. Attend A Ground Instruction School

While attending a ground instruction school may be a shorter route to licensing. This particular program focuses specifically on what it takes to become a pilot. This includes enough flight time and exam preparation for written, oral, and flight exams. Here, student pilots study helicopter controls along with the practice of take-off and landing activity. Pilots first learn the use of simulators with an instructor sitting beside them. Once your flight instructor feels you are ready, he will sign you off by taking a written test. You need to pass the test and move forward to flight training.

  1. Secure Financial Aid

Few flight schools and private companies offer loans for those interested in becoming pilots such as the Career Training Loan. Several industry groups may offer training, education, or scholarship opportunities. Candidates can also choose to enter the military firm, where training and licensing are offered in exchange for services. If you are a pilot with a fixed-wing license, you can further apply for a rotorcraft license as an add-on. This may help you to reduce the requirement for flight hours.

  1. Obtain Licenses

You must be surprised to know that helicopters earn a private license first and then earn a commercial license. Many aspiring pilots wish to become an Airline Transport Pilot, it is the highest achievement recognized by the FAA. Several practice exams are available on the FAA website for all licensing. Individuals must be 17 years old to qualify for a private license. Licensing is further divided into two categories.

Private Helicopter Pilot License

It starts from here! If you like to obtain a private license, you need to follow the below criteria.

  • Interested individuals should be at least 17 years old.
  • You must read, write, and speak fluent English.
  • Attempt and pass a written test.
  • Attempt and pass an oral test.
  • Pass a practical flight test.

Helicopter pilots can expand their job opportunities by obtaining a commercial helicopter pilot license.

Commercial License

You can be able to make money with a commercial helicopter license. To obtain a commercial helicopter license, candidates need to follow the below criteria.

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Candidates need to hold a private pilot license.
  • Hold the FAA medical certification.
  • Attempt and pass FAA written test.
  • Attempt and pass an FAA oral test.
  • Attempt and pass a practical test.

Make sure you at least earn a grade of 70% to pass. This flight exam consists of planning and executing a short flight with the instructor beside the student pilot. Ensure that no errors are made. The instructor may ask you to start the exam over or retake the test in case errors are made.

Certified Flight Instructor Rating

This isn’t really considered a helicopter license, but slightly a rating. To be a certified flight instructor rating, you need to follow the below criteria.

  • You need to hold a commercial helicopter pilot license.
  • Candidates must be at least 18 years old.
  • You must read, write, and speak in English.
  • You need to log at least 15 hours pilot-in-command in a helicopter.
  • Attempt and pass an FAA written test.
  • Attempt and pass an FAA oral test.
  • Attempt and pass a practical flight test.

In this case, you are now free to use your commercial helicopter license to teach others to fly helicopters.

Helicopter Instrument Rating

Again, this is a rating just like the flight instructor rating. To achieve the helicopter instrument rating, you need to follow the below sequence.

Individuals need to hold a minimum Private Pilot License or enrolled in the training.

Candidates must be at least 17 years old.

  • You must read, write, and speak in English.
  • You need to log 50 hours of cross-country flight as a pilot-in-command.
  • You need to log 40 hours of flight by reference to instruments only. These 40 hours of instrument time can be combined with cross-country requirements also.
  • Sometimes, you may also need to substitute up to 20 hours of instrument time.
  • Attempt and pass an FAA written test.
  • Attempt and pass an FAA oral test.
  • Attempt and pass a practical flight test.

This rating allows you to use any helicopter license for flying in instrument meteorological conditions.

Airline Transport Helicopter Pilot License

This helicopter license requires extensive flight experience. It is generally pursued after a few years of experience as a commercial pilot. Candidates need to follow the below criteria to become an ATP.

  • First, hold a commercial pilot certification.
  • You have to own an instrument rating.
  • Candidates must be at least 23 years old.
  • Attempt and pass an FAA written examination.
  • Attempt and pass an FAA oral and flight test.
  • Individuals must hold an FAA first-class medical certificate.
  1. Complete The FAA Required Flight Time

Each of the pilot certifications has its own set of required flight hours. Below I have listed down the hours most students may need to reach proficiency.

Private Helicopter Pilot

  • Here, the 40 hours of flight time includes the following things.
  • 20 hours of training with CFI.
  • 10 solo hours of flight.
  • 3 hours of dual cross-country flying with an instructor.
  • 3 hours solo cross-country flying without.
  • 3 hours dual night time flying.
  • One 75-nautical-mile cross-country flight.
  • 10 takeoffs and landings.
  • 3 solo takeoffs and landings.

Commercial Helicopter Pilot

  • The total required hours for this training is 150 hours.
  • Here, your 100 hours will be in a powered aircraft. In this, your 50 hours must be in helicopters.
  • Your next 100 hours will be of pilot-in-command. Here, at least 35 of these hours must be in helicopters. And at least 10 of these hours must be on cross-country flights.
  • You need to complete 20 hours of dual flight training. This time includes 5 hours of IFR. Over 50-mile daytime cross-country flight for at least 2 hours. Over 50-mile nighttime cross-country flight lasting for at least 2 hours. You may need 3 hours of practical test preparation with your instructor.
  • You need to complete one solo cross-country flight which lasts for 10 hours. Over here, a cross-country flight includes landing at 3 points and has a segment longer than 50 miles. And 5 hours of night flying includes 10 takeoffs and 10 landings.
  • Applicants must complete 10 hours of instrument training.

Airline Transport Helicopter License

  • Complete 500 hours of cross-country flying.
  • You have to complete 100 hours of nighttime flying with at least 15 hours in helicopters.
  • You have to finish 200 hours of flight time in helicopters with at least 75 hours as a pilot-in-command.
  • Finish 75 hours of instrument time of which 50 hours completed in-flight and 25 hours in helicopters.
  1. Pass In A Practical Test

Once your instructor signs off, you are now ready for your practical test or check ride. Your instructor will help you to prepare for both the oral and hands-on portions of this test. Pass in this practice test, file your paperwork, and it’s done!

Helicopter Pilot Training And License Cost

We know that helicopters are fast, they are graceful, and can get into the places where an aircraft can’t go. You must have a clear idea about the cost of this degree program. Continue to read if you are interested to know how much it costs to become a helicopter pilot.

Training Cost

  • The total cost for a private helicopter pilot certification costs between $12,000 to $16,000.
  • However, the average cost of helicopter flying lessons costs from $150 to $200 per hour. Flight time with an instructor will cost you about $200 per hour, while solo-flying time costs between $150 to $175 per hour.
  • The training on the ground will cost you $30 to $40 per hour.

License Cost

  • If you want to get your helicopter pilot license it can range between $10,000 to $15,000 on average.
  • The cost for a private license ranges between $10,000 and $15,000.
  • The estimated cost for a commercial license ranges from $18,000 to $20,000.
  • The cost of a certified flight instructor rating is $13,000.
  • The cost of a certified flight instructor instrument is $2,000.
  • The cost of an airline transport pilot helicopter license depends on the company.

Eligibility Needed To Be A Helicopter Pilot

No matter which paths a helicopter pilot chooses, they must start by undergoing education and training. You can take a look to learn more about how to become a helicopter pilot with educational requirements.

  • The desiring candidate must be 17 years old.
  • You need to have at least post-secondary schooling.
  • Most employers ask pilots to have at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • Obtain a private helicopter license to fly.
  • Obtain an FAA medical certificate.
  • Pass in an FAA written test.
  • Earn a commercial pilot license.
  • Hold a private helicopter pilot license.
  • Individuals need to complete a ground instruction.

Helicopter Pilot License Requirements

Just like most flying-related licenses, you will need to fulfill the requirements to earn the privilege of flying a helicopter. According to current FAA regulations candidates need to succeed in the following requirements.

  • The aspiring candidate must be at least 17 years old.
  • They must pass an FAA written test.
  • Individuals must have full proficiency in English.
  • You can earn an endorsement from an official flight instructor.
  • You have to satisfy the required amount of flying time and training conditions.
  • Candidates should pass the final check-ride exam.
  • Receive medical clearance for holding a valid student-pilot certificate.
  • You have to satisfy all the latest Federal Aviation Regulations for helicopter operations.

Skills For Becoming A Helicopter Pilot

By now you have understood how to become a helicopter pilot. To become a successful helicopter pilot requires a good combination of skills. Below I have mentioned some of the necessary skills you may need for being a professional helicopter pilot.

  • Clear communications skills.
  • Adequate situational awareness.
  • Ability to work within a cohesive team.
  • Able to coordinate actions by providing clear and honest feedback.
  • Must be able to make the best possible decision during emergencies.
  • Ability to remain calm in complex situations.
  • Capable to execute tasks/checklists under pressure.
  • Ability to understand technical information.
  • Students should be capable of performing mental arithmetic calculations quickly on demand.

Time Needed To Become A Helicopter Pilot

Before stepping into this field, you must know how much time is needed to become a helicopter pilot. Individuals may need 18 months to become professional helicopter pilots. Every candidate learns at a different rate, so the time needed to finish this program will vary.

Books And Training Materials For Helicopter Pilots

I assume that you have learned how to become a helicopter pilot by now. Let us see the books and training material required for this degree program.

  1. Federal Aviation Regulation & Airman’s Information Manual (Cost: $21.95)
  2. Helicopter Experts, Inc. Flight Training Syllabus (Cost: $80.00)
  3. Practical Test Standards (Cost: $11.50)
  4. Aviation Weather Combo Set (Cost: $40.95)
  5. Rotorcraft Flying Handbook (Cost: $24.95)
  6. Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (Cost: $37.95)
  7. Aviation Chart Plotter (Cost: $16.05)
  8. ASA-PHF Principles of Helicopter Flight (Cost: $31.95)
  9. E6B Navigation Computer (Cost: $37.95)
  10. San Antonio Sectional Chart (Cost: $22.95)
  11. Private Knowledge Test Guide (Cost: $28.95)

Best Helicopter Pilot School

Until now you have studied how to become a helicopter pilot in detail. Here are the best helicopter pilot schools in the USA. All these flight schools will give your pilot career the kickstart you are looking for!

  1. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
  2. Ohio State University
  3. University of North Dakota
  4. Purdue University
  5. Western Michigan University
  6. Florida Institute of Technology

Job Opportunities For A Helicopter Pilot

You can serve work in a variety of industries by understanding how to become a helicopter pilot. Below I have presented the list of some of the most popular Helicopter Pilot jobs for you.

  • Law Enforcement Pilot
  • EMS Pilot
  • Motion Picture Pilot
  • Agricultural Pilot
  • Construction Pilot
  • Fire Fighting Pilot
  • Oil Rig Pilot
  • TV News Pilot
  • Corporate Pilot
  • Tour Pilot
  • Search and Rescue Pilot
  • Executive Transport

Salary

According to BLS, the average salary of a helicopter pilot is $94,519 per annum. However, the mid-range salary of a helicopter pilot ranges from $80,148 to $121,547 per annum. While the lowest-earning of a helicopter pilot is less than $32,020 and the highest pay is $129.580. Your salary will grow maximum up to $120,00 per annum.

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FAQ

How Much Does It Cost To Get A Helicopter Pilot’s License?

The average cost of a helicopter pilot license ranges between $10,000 to $15,000. The cost for a private license ranges between $10,000 and $15,000. The estimated cost for a commercial license ranges from $18,000 to $20,000.

How Many Years Does It Take To Become A Helicopter Pilot?

It takes one and a half years (18 months) to become a helicopter pilot.

Is Becoming A Helicopter Pilot Worth It?

Yes, it is definitely worth it to become a helicopter pilot. If you love flying, then this career can be enjoyable too.

How Much Money Can You Make As A Helicopter Pilot?

As a helicopter pilot, you can make anywhere from $80,148 to $121,547 per annum. The average salary of a helicopter pilot is $94,519 per annum. While the lowest-earning of a helicopter pilot is less than $32,020 and the highest pay is $129.580.

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Conclusion

My above guide on how to become a helicopter pilot will help you to become a full-time helicopter pilot. Candidates who are interested in becoming a helicopter pilot can opt for a Career Training Loan. I have mentioned certain criteria you have to meet before learning how to become a professional helicopter pilot. Individuals need to qualify for an FAA medical examination before starting their flight training. You can then further go and obtain a private, commercial, airline transport pilot license. Now you can easily make flying your hobby or personal transportation by understanding how to become a helicopter pilot.

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